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Movie Review: #TheForeigner

The brutality of The Foreigner is expertly-matched by its incredibly human story of loss.

Review by Matt Cummings
If the idea of seeing good vs evil in a standard action movie seems...well...so Atomic Blonde or John Wick, you're not alone in seeking an alternative. This week, I can safely say that The Foreigner breaks a lot of those molds, delivering us a tight action film with the unexpected addition of British politics, seduction, infidelity, all surrounded by incredible loss.
After his daughter is killed in an IRA bombing in London, Quan (Jackie Chan) sets off to find the killers. Bound up by incredible loss, Quan at first attempts to use the law by imploring local authorities into action with cash donations. When that doesn't work, he takes much stronger measures, attacking former IRA strongman and now rep to the British Parliament Hennessey (Pierce Brosnan) who knows the identity of those involved. Hennessey is playing his own game, hoping to rekindle his loss of stature among the IRA elite. What Hennessey doesn't realize is that Quan is a dangerous former soldier who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth, which includes exposing his infidelity to the press and putting his conniving wife and nephew in the cross hairs. As Quan and Hennessey head for a final showdown, Hennessey learns that he is both powerless to stop Quan as well as the web of lies being laid behind his back, all while the full weight of the British government descends upon Belfast. I was initially worried that seeing a 60-year-old Kung Fu star running around like he's 40 would be a problem. Yet, Chan is not doing Drunken Master: he actually gets a chance to act, showing off a level of sadness and desperation that I don't think we've seen from him before. To watch Director Martin Campbell throw Chan down a deep well of despair feels heavy and meaningful. We become acutely aware of his loss, and Chan really sells it. The Foreigner isn't all Chan though, as this is as much about Brosnan's Hennessey and the crumbling of his world as it is about Quan's. By the end, both men are truly damaged, with one ready to move on, and the other experiencing life in that deep hole. Campbell, who directed Bond comeback Casino Royale, wraps his characters in a tight mesh of post -9/11 anxiety and 1980's IRA fear. The idea that an offshoot of the IRA could orchestrate this behind Hennessey's back is sold really well by Campbell environmentals and the people he hires to project them.
The Foreigner does enter into some weird territory in a couple of places, as we learn that sex is apparently OK between blood relatives as well as terrorists who use it to plant bombs on their prey. It's easier to believe the one over the other, and so when a moment of revenge arrives near the end, the sequence leaves you asking more questions than reacting in a way that Campbell had hoped. Writer David Marconi - inspired from the book by Stephen Leather - brings the IRA back, but also leaves us wondering why it's important they've returned. Campbell does try to demonstrate that the peace accord signed in 1998 is still a tenuous one, displaying signs of protest on the sides of homes as Quen arrives in Belfast. While British audiences will be able to instantly identify with those powerful images, Americans will probably be scratching their heads. I also didn't like the happy ending, which seemed at many points to be heading down a very different direction. Up to that point, The Foreigner felt as real as any revenge tale we've seen recently, and a hopeful ending is something feels entirely wrong for this. But we're also here for the action, and neither Chan nor Campbell disappoint. The trailers made The Foreigner look like a version of The Raid, and yet there's a lot more going on here than just the punching and explosions. Having said that, we get some really great sequences with Quen initially struggling to get back into fighting form. I loved those moments of reality, which Liam Neeson's Run All Night didn't get right at all. Quen looks rough around the edges, even when he's barreling down on Hennessey. He will ultimately win - because Campbell isn't that bold - but his body will pay a high price. This is another shortcoming that's exposed near film's end. I really wanted a more violent and finality to the conclusion, but all it seemed to do was to potentially announce a sequel. I hope that doesn't happen, because The Foreigner succeeds because it doesn't need a franchise to be memorable. Add an inspiring dark heartbeat by Composer Cliff Martinez, and The Foreigner, and you've got an unconventional action thriller that's destined to resonate with audiences bold enough to give this one a chance.
The Foreigner breaks some rules along the way to becoming a surprise action flick that's more than Chan somersaulting through windows on his way to victory. It speaks to the human cost of terrorism in a way that I wasn't expecting, which made every punch and kick by Chan a sort of individual act of revenge. Brosnan absolutely delivers as well as the deep and talented cast, all of whom enjoy their moments. The ending isn't realistic at all, but it's forgivable considering how much fun we had watching Chan hitting his creative stride. The Foreigner should go atop most people's lists for "Biggest Surprises of 2017," provided that anyone takes a chance on this richly-rewarding experience. The Foreigner is rated R for violence, language and some sexual material and has a runtime of 114 minutes. Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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